The Council for the National Interest Foundation recently sent a team of 15 citizen diplomats to a number of countries in the Middle East. Ambassador Edward Peck -- the former head of President Reagan's Terrorism Task Force -- led the delegation.
The Political Pilgrimage was titled, "What does the Middle East want from President Elect Barack Obama the first 100 days."
They recorded a number of sound bites that are reflective of some of the concurrent opinions about and expectations from the Obama Administration. The people in the videos included Israeli and Palestinian residents, politicians, and religious leaders in the region.
The CNI team also met with Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah and Khaled Meshal (Founding Leader of HAMAS).
In an e-mail to members, CNI expressed the hope that the videos "will spark a new way of thinking by our foreign policy makers." They went on to remind their members that "the Obama campaign prided themselves on their ability to reach the American public by addressing the people and confronting problems directly. And that is exactly what the CNI Political Pilgrimage sought out to do."
There are very few organizations and people in the United States that have taken the risk of investing as much financial and human resources as Ed Peck, Eugene Bird and CNI have to do what American journalists are supposed to do -- giving voice to all sides of a conflict.
This blogger does not agree with all the comments in these videos, nor does he believe that unelected religious figures such as Ayatollah Fadlallah should be regarded as legitimate political leaders. However, regardless of how one feels about HAMAS and Hezbollah, these videos are quite eye-opening and can help one form a more accurate picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.